The recent press release regarding NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) contains many inaccuracies and omissions. Foremost among them is mention of “gamesmanship.” Along with our state partners, NOAA Fisheries has dedicated significant time, expertise, and resources toward the development of these state data collection programs. To date, we have hosted five joint workshops to foster collaboration between and with the states and to provide technical advice on the state survey designs. We have developed the methodology upon which Alabama’s and Mississippi’s data collection programs are based; provided financial support for testing Alabama’s program; facilitated peer reviews; and completed certifications of Louisiana’s, Alabama’s, Mississippi’s, and Florida’s recreational fishing survey designs. We have also worked closely with our state partners to develop the conversion ratios that will facilitate the use of state data in monitoring and managing recreational red snapper catch. Also, the implied connection between the quota overage in Texas and MRIP is misleading. Texas is not part of MRIP. Overages are based on catch estimates provided by the state of Texas from their creel survey information.
As in finance, it is inappropriate to set a limit in one currency—such as a vacation budgeted in American dollars—but monitor toward that limit in another currency—such as tracking that same vacation’s spending in Euros. In the Gulf, states are using their catch estimates to monitor toward quotas set in federal catch estimates’ currency. NOAA Fisheries asserts that calibration is necessary to account for differences between the survey methods used to monitor red snapper catch and to allow a direct “apples to apples” comparison between state catch estimates and current ACLs.
The need to convert, or calibrate, between state and federal estimates does not imply that one set of estimates is better than the other. Instead, calibration will be used to translate between current catch quotas and state catch estimates to avoid the current mismatch between the information used to monitor recreational red snapper catch and the quotas states must monitor toward. The process has been complicated by the need to integrate multiple state-specific survey designs, rather than one regional data collection program.
Not calibrating between state and federal catch estimates would ignore the inherent differences between all of the surveys administered in the Gulf. If state catch estimates and current catch quotas are not placed into a common currency, we will be unable to determine whether catch remains under or exceeds those limits, and will therefore risk overfishing or implementing overly restrictive regulations.
Ultimately, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is responsible for determining how these conversion ratios will be used to set catch quotas for future fishing seasons. NOAA Fisheries will continue to work with all of our partners to ensure the sustainability of the Gulf red snapper fishery.
Director of Public Affairs